The recent furore surrounding biofuels and the food vs. fuel arguments, has highlighted to the world how important industrialised agriculture is to maintaining a steady food supply, and how precious our bio-productive land is. When we start diverting land to producing stuff other than food there are serious issues to be considered in terms of equity and social and environmental sustainability. When looking at the "Energy Return vs. Energy Invested" of biofuels, another serious flaw was highlighted – the carbon intensity of our industrialised agriculture systems.
In short, with ever more dire predictions about how much longer oil is going to last, there are some seriously big elephants in the room, when it comes to working out how long we can continue to feed the world’s growing population for when our agriculture is so dependent on oil to produce food.
Up until now, no one has given any really serious consideration to post-carbon agriculture, we’ve seen a few bits of ag-machinery powered by biofuels – big deal, it doesn’t take a radical leap in technology to make that work; but now we’re seeing something radically different, and really exciting.
New Holland, in partnership with Iveco, look set to debut a Fuel Cell tractor in early 2009. Dubbed the NH2, the fossil fuel dependent Diesel engine, has been replaced by a Fuel Cell, which has the potential to ween farms off their addiction to oil – soon you might be seeing ‘zero-carbon’ foodstuffs, alongside your Organics and Fairtrade.
The idea of producing Fuel Cell tractors has been kicking around for a bit, Allis Chalmers produced a Fuel Cell powered tractor back in 1959, however, after the demo of ploughing a field of Alfalfa, it ended up in the Smithsonian. What’s exciting, is that as a big noise in the tractor business, New Holland has the potential to transform agriculture completely by decarbonising one element of the food supply chain.
Via: Farmers Guardian